We had to work in Yuma, AZ so we decided to visit Chiricahua National Monument and Fort Bowie. On the last big adventure, I saw signs talking a bit about Cochise of the Chiricahua Apache and I wanted to learned more.
We left Yuma in the afternoon (I had a lunch meeting) and made it to Willcox around 8pm. We passed some signs for the Dragoon Mountains (where Cochise called home), Fort Huachuca (where some Buffalo Soldiers were based) and Tombstone (where some of Young Guns took place) but we weren’t able to visit this time around. We booked at the Quality Inn right on the main street. The room was comfortable and the tv and internet were fine. The best part, was it was one of the few hotels that took our large dog. The manager was quite kind when he checked us in.
Chiricahua National Monument
We woke up early the next morning for the drive to the Chiricahua National Monument. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was closer than Ft. Bowie so we began there. It was amazing!
We have a National Parks pass so we never worry about cost, but I was surprised to find out that it was free. Perhaps all National Monuments are free, I have no idea. Anyhoo … we drove to the Visitor’s Center where there was a small stream. My kids are in a superhero phase so they ran around the parking lot in their matching capes to the delight of … everyone. Lol There were lots of older people present. Inside, the ranger seemed just as pleased to have two caped crusaders running around her small museum and giftshop touching everything. Lol
Since we had our large dog with us, we couldn’t hike. It turns out that those hills are full of predators (bears, cougars, etc.) so there aren’t many places NPS suggests you take your dog. We decided to drive up to the eight miles up to Massai Point and see what there was to see.
The drive is gorgeous, if you like rock formations. We made it to the top in a few minutes and weren’t expecting much. We all piled out of the car into … ridiculously windy conditions. Apparently, in this corner of the US you can tell spring has sprung once the winds pick up. It was a warm day but the wind made it so cold that my partner and youngest retreated to the car. My oldest wanted to hike a little so we set off down the trail.
If you take the trail from the parking lot and go to the left, you’ll find a small watch tower with a magnificent view. My little one loved the short hike. On the way back to the parking lot, we chose the wrong trail and ended up going around the parking lot to the other trail entrance on the right. Since we were over there, we decided to walk (it’s paved) the short way to Cochise’s head and up to the exhibit structure.
The whole hike/walk probably took about 20 minutes but the wind was ferocious! After being buffeted by the wind, we ran into the exhibit structure just to have a few moments of calm. The door was hard to open with the wind blowing against in and it SLAMMED when it closed. We weren’t the only ones with this great idea so we were joined by a family soon after. We holed up for a bit and then decided to make a run for a it. The walk from the structure back to the parking lot only took about 40 seconds. When you see the sign that says you can hike or visit the exhibit, if you choose the exhibit side there’s only a short walk up a few stairs and you’re there! Lol
We made it back to the car where no one seemed to care. My partner was on his phone, my youngest was playing with a toy the ranger gave her, and my pup was lying down relaxing. We hopped in and headed down the hill.
To get from Chiricahua over to Fort Bowie, the quickest route is an eight mile unpaved road. We are in a little Scion XB and I wasn’t sure how well our stiff suspension and low profile tires would fare on the road. I called and spoke with Ranger Amy about it and she assured me that we would be fine. I was wary but we set off …
The road is full of red dirt at the turn off from Chiricahua. There are rocks everywhere. The sign suggested not going more than 35 miles per hour, but I stayed around 20 .. just to be on the safe side. We have AAA but there is no cell phone service and we didn’t have a spare tire (it’s a long story) so I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up stranded out there. On the road, we saw two white vans. One sped by us. The other crept by us. All of us made it with no problems. I really appreciated that the road is clearly marked with mile markers so I could mentally count how many miles we’d have to walk with our toddlers strapped to our chests if this went bad. Lol
Upon pulling into the parking lot, you realize … there is no Visitor’s Center. The parking lot has a map, a restroom, and a trailhead. To reach the Visitor’s Center you have to hike the 1.5 mile trail through dirt, rocks, and shrubs. We grabbed the kids, leashed the dog, and headed out.
At the half mile point I realized 1) we hadn’t brought the kid’s toddler Tulas and 2) the kids wouldn’t want to walk 3 miles on their own and 3) we were gonna have to turn back. We saw a few other families and groups on the trail. I considered just doing it but the thought of carrying my 40 pound toddler in my arms for 1.5 miles on the way back wasn’t tempting so I sighed and headed back.
The good thing to come out of it was everyone still walked a mile so the kids and pup were tired when we made it back to the car. We watered and juiced everyone and shoved off toward El Paso. It was a good day.